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  • Teaching Through a Pandemic

    One pandemic later and we are living in a world of virtual learning and 18 months later we are slowly beginning to integrate back to some semblance of normalcy. We wanted to take a moment to interview Haven Hills’ teacher to share her thoughts about the education program at Haven Hills and how the pandemic has affected her program. 

    • Interviewer: Tell me about Haven Hills’ Children’s programs and on-site shelter school? 

    I am extremely proud of the educational program my team and I have developed throughout my 10 years at Haven Hills. We have always maintained a child-centered curriculum, combined with rigorous attention to state standards; taught in a creative and engaging way. As a teacher who has previously taught in classrooms containing 30+ students, I feel blessed to have the luxury of an environment where I can focus on individual needs and strengths so vital to a child’s growth and self-esteem. Both the kids and I have thrived in this atmosphere. When I hear a 15-year-old boy tell me that mine was the first class where he ever read an entire book, or when a 10-year-old girl, told for years she was “stupid” at math, lights up at mastering division; it is no mystery why I have stayed here 10 years.  

    We focus on English/Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies every day.  Art, music, and dance are also a big part of my classroom.  Over the years, I have collected a terrific assortment of lesson plans for all grades and interests.  Some, I have written, some I have borrowed, and on some I have collaborated.  The remarkable thing about educators is that they love to share their successful lessons with each other! The structure of the classroom is divided by age and grade.  We serve kids kindergarten through high school.  I design an instructional program for each of the kids based on my initial assessments, state standards, and the children’s own strengths and interests.  I only have them for a maximum of 45 days (about 1 and a half months), but it is wonderful to see what some TLC can do. 

    • Interviewer: How is their learning structured during the pandemic? 

     Throughout the last year, the Haven Hills team and I have challenged ourselves to maintain the education of our client’s children in any way possible. We have distributed thrice weekly lessons, worksheets, and curricula, offered Zoom classes, and purchased hands on science and art kits for the kids to enjoy. I have heard from many parents throughout the year that the children enjoy the educational packets and that the parents also enjoy doing them with their kids! So, as an unexpected bonus, parents and children have strengthened their bond! Yay! That said, though, I cannot WAIT to get back into the classroom, whenever that may be. I miss the interaction and the joy I get from my students. 

    • Interviewer: Do you work with partner organizations? 

    Most other DV (DOMESTIC VIOLENCE) shelters do not have onsite schools, which is a shame, because it is unsafe for the children to return to their old school (because of the abuser).  There have been many cases of the abusive partner kidnapping the children from their school and/or using them as leverage against the DV survivor.  So, back in the 70’s, when Haven Hills began, the women who founded it wisely wanted the children to continue their studies. They also knew the routine of school would provide comfort and structure to traumatized kids.  They also intuitively knew that happy kids help heal the DV survivors.  So, they designed a one-room schoolhouse for the survivor’s children onsite where the kids could thrive and get a lot of individual attention they have been needing for years.  Other DV shelters are beginning to catch on to how necessary a school is for the health of their clients and have installed them or in the process of developing them. Another serendipitous event occurred during this last challenging year. A sister shelter contacted me to pick my brain on developing their own classroom onsite! I happily babbled on for an hour to their administrator and it truly reminded me how much I love teaching at Haven Hills. He told me he is going to incorporate many of my suggestions. This success is a shared one:  I could not do the positive things for the kids I do without the support and encouragement of the Haven Hills team. 

    • Interviewer: Do you have any advice for parents out there who may be struggling with school? 

    Advice for parents struggling with school is first…realize we are all struggling so do not be tough on yourself.  Also, do not be ashamed or embarrassed to reach out for support from other parents or teachers, online or by phone.  There are terrific free resources available:  the Los Angeles Unified School District, the PTA, even the public library! There are parent support groups that are open and encouraging to all — all you need to do is ask. 

    • Interviewer: Do you have a favorite teaching moment? 

    My favorite teaching moment is when school is over and the kids do not want to leave! Yes, that does sometimes happen.  That is truly a great moment. 

  • Housing First Program: How Haven Hills Helps Survivors of Domestic Violence Find Housing

    For 43 years, Haven Hills has been adapting to provide domestic violence survivors with services to support their emerging needs. From our humble beginning as a hotline that operated from 9 am – 4 pm, when the Savings and Loan bank that donated space was open, to the opening of our shelters and our Service Center. 

    We pride ourselves in providing innovative services to help survivors overcome their trauma and build better lives for themselves and their children. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve been integrating more into housing issues over the past five years. Reports state that safe, affordable housing is often one of the primary barriers survivors face when leaving their abusive partner. Those reports also document domestic violence as the leading cause of homelessness for women and children.

    In 2020, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) reported that 18,858 women, men, and children across the county have experienced or are homeless due to domestic violence, a 40% increase from 2019. Sadly, DV victims make up 41% of the total “unsheltered” homeless population or those living on the streets, in their cars, and other places not suited to human habitation. Although these are alarming figures, many professionals argue that these statistics are low and do not accurately capture the number of domestic violence survivors living on the streets. 

    We have seen survivors leave our transitional shelter for years now and struggle to find affordable housing. Upon leaving, many survivors often face two terrible choices: return to their abusers or become homeless. Societally, we urge survivors to leave their abusers, even going so far as to tell them they must leave. Yet, where should they go? 

    That’s why Haven Hills founded its Housing First Program in 2018. This program, funded through the California Office of Emergency Services, helps families find safe and affordable housing to ensure their safety. The program provides survivors with housing assistance for rent, utilities, furniture, and essential supplies. It also includes case management through our Housing Navigator. This staff member helps survivors locate and secure housing, ensuring they receive the supportive services needed to stay housed. 

    The Housing First Program has helped survivors exiting from our transitional program, crisis shelter, and outreach programs to find housing successfully. Before implementing this program, roughly 40–50% of clients leaving our transitional program obtained housing. In 2018, that percentage grew to 80%, and in 2019 100% of exiting survivors moved on to permanent housing. Without financial support, this upward trend would be very different. 

    The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for this program. Dozens of survivors have turned to us to help them stay in their homes as they faced reduced hours at work or loss of employment. Housing First funding has helped prevent homelessness for survivors with no other options. When DV survivors must choose between living in violence at home or subjecting themselves and their children to violence on the street, we must do all we can to make sure that these are not their only options. 

    Maria Barahona has been with Haven Hills since 2014. Over that time, she served as its Director of Development and currently serves as the Director of Compliance. In this capacity, she oversees our public contracts and new program development, including Haven Hill’s Housing First and DART Shelter Advocate Programs.  
    Please visit the National Alliance for Safe Housing and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) for more information on homelessness and domestic violence.

  • Learn About
    Domestic Violence

    What is domestic violence? The definition of domestic violence is as follows: domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors in any relationship that one intimate partner uses to get or keep power and control over another intimate partner.

    In other words, domestic violence is physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions that influence another person. In an abusive relationship, one intimate partner uses physical, sexual, emotional, or other types of domestic violence to try to gain and maintain power and control over the other partner.

    Every human being has the right to feel safe, to live each day, and rest each night, free from violent actions and intimidating threats.

    Every human heart can admit what love is — and is not. Love is not abuse. Domestic violence is never acceptable in any relationship.

    DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE

    Married couples. People who are living together or who are dating. Teens. College students. Newlyweds. So-called “Power Couples” blessed with wealth and fame. Men and women working to raise themselves out of poverty. LGBTQ partners. People with disabilities. Seniors. Anyone.

    DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AFFECTS EVERYONE

    We all need to understand domestic violence. Learn how to recognize the signs of domestic violence happening in your own life or the lives of friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers, or anyone you know.